Sunday, 16 November 2008


It’s November, in case you hadn’t noticed. With the American Election, Fireworks Night, Remembrance Day and it being fucking cold it is a pretty busy month. Because of this it may have escaped your notice that it is also National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, which just sounds retarded). In a short NaNoWriMo is when loads of long-suffering and repressed potential novelists (I use the word in the broadest sense) each try to write a fifty thousand-word novel in a month. Morons.

A cursory glance at their website’s info page will tell you exactly why I think this is a really really really bad idea. Possibly the most worrying statement is the patronising reassurance that ‘it's all about quantity, not quality.’ So I could write 50,000 words of incoherent rubbish and it wouldn’t matter? I think whichever bright spark came up with this idea need to re-evaluate his or her ideas about what makes a good writer. There is no point writing lots unless you actually write with the aim of improving. If you don’t set yourself the aim of improving, you wont become a better writer. You don’t improve as if by magic, it requires grind and effort; you can’t just churn out pages and pages of poorly written prose and awkward dialogue with a strained and underdeveloped plot and cliché, poorly constructed characters and hope that if you do it often enough without actually setting yourself a standard to achieve you will stumble upon the kind of talent that is required to write a good novel. The blitz approach that NaMoWriMo (that sounds more ridiculous every time I write it) is useless for prospective novelists.

Lets look some more prize pieces of wisdom from the info page shall we? Here’s a good one:

‘Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.’

Eugh! Writing loads of crap does not help! Writing loads of crap is futile. You may stumble upon a neat turn of phrase or beautiful metaphor, but that does not indicate progress any more than randomly throwing darts at a dartboard and by chance hitting the bulls-eye does. Purposeless spewing of crap does not achieve anything, if anything it will make you a worse writer; it will get you into bad habits of being satisfied with less that your best. If you forgo quality for quantity you allow yourself to write poorly and so you get into the habit of writing poorly.

Trying to write a novel in a month is an impossible task. It will doubtless cause endless stress, sleepless nights and frantic typing with no regard for whether what you are writing actually makes sense. Now for writing prose, this is not too bad; some very good prose has been written in such conditions, but for constructing a coherent plot it is disastrous. Any novel needs a massive amount of planning; the plot needs to be decided upon before the first words are even written. That is not to say that the plot cannot be tweaked as you go along, but the basic outline has to be there. Just as you plan an essay before you write it, you have to plan a novel before you write it. It is especially important for a novel because it is so much longer than an essay; how can you hope to write 50,000 words (which is only about 175 pages by the way) and stay coherent without planning what you’re going to write before hand? If I were attempting to write a novel (which I don’t plan on doing) I would spend a long time before I started writing in the planning stage, which is simply not possible in a month.

Some of you may be wondering at this point why I am complaining about this? If people want to kill their creativity then let them, right? Sure, I just think that it is a terrible idea. If you seriously want to write a novel, or even be a good writer, their method of blitz and hope is a terrible one. It maybe entertaining if you are a masochist, but it is a short cut to creative ruin.


  1. Stephen Jefferson18 November 2008 at 06:38

    This stuff is the shit, dude.

  2. sorry alex, but judging by this youve clearly never written.
    this is an OPPORTUNITY to write stress free and for fun. FUN.
    when people write in normal circumstances, it can be really stressful because you are constantly seeking perfection, which means you are missing the point of writing in the first place: enjoyment.
    understand before criticising, moron.


  3. Firstly, personal insults never got anyone anywhere.

    Secondly, I wholeheartadly think that 175 pages in a month is a stupid concept. I have had the feeling of writing and perfection; it is annoying when you just want to get it right.

    However, as Alex points out, some of the phrases that website uses, are downright laughable. I don't see how attempting to write 50,00 words can be considered enjoyable, especially when most people wont even get half, well, at least people with normal lives, which include jobs or education.

  4. And writing 50,000 words in a month is totally unstressful is it Matt?

    I fail to see how writing 50,000 words of drivel could possibly be fun. I do write actually, so you're wrong on that one, and I dont find it stressful simply because there is no pressure. I have no time limit, I have no deadline. if I can't think of anything to write, I can come back to it without worrying that I'm falling behind. Seeking perfection Ii not stressful for me. It is a challenge yes, but I dont get stressed per se, certainly not as stressed as I would be if I had a difficult time limit.